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Research to Inform Top Charity Recommendations

Published: November 2019

At the start of each year, our research team considers which new information or analysis is most likely to change our charity recommendations and/or improve our ability to share the reasoning for our recommendations with the community of supporters who rely on our work.

A large portion of that work involves discussions with and analysis of information provided by top charities. The outputs of our ongoing, rigorous reviews of our top charities' work are described on this page of updates on top charities and standout charities.

In addition, we seek out information from other sources and perform analysis to inform our recommendations. This page highlights some of the additional research we conducted in 2019.

In 2019, we prioritized improving our understanding of the following topics:

Topic Relevant to which top charities? Steps taken How we updated
The levels of vitamin A deficiency where Helen Keller International (HKI) implements its vitamin A supplementation (VAS) program. HKI's VAS program We spoke with researchers at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) and updated our model. We discuss this in more detail here. We switched the method we were using to estimate vitamin A deficiency in our cost-effectiveness model from our own rough estimates based on country-level deficiency surveys to relying on information from the IHME's Global Burden of Disease model, which is also our source for malaria burdens. This change increased our modeled cost-effectiveness of HKI's VAS program. Additional details are in our cost-effectiveness model changelog.
The impact of insecticide resistance on the effectiveness of insecticide-treated nets to prevent malaria. Against Malaria Foundation (AMF) Stephan Guyenet, a GiveWell Senior Fellow, reevaluated our insecticide resistance adjustment. Stephan is a former PhD-level researcher in the biological sciences and he reviewed the scientific literature on mosquito insecticide resistance to search for information that may improve our model. His work included speaking with Dr. Thomas Churcher of Imperial College London. Stephan's work and our conversation with Dr. Churcher increased our confidence that our approach to modeling the impact of insecticide resistance is reasonable, though a more complex model may increase the precision of our estimates.
The total size of the global funding need for anti-malaria nets and seasonal malaria chemoprevention (SMC). AMF; Malaria Consortium's SMC program We spoke with Dr. Melanie Renshaw, Chief Technical Advisor, African Leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA). We used this information to triangulate the information we received from AMF and Malaria Consortium about the size of their funding gaps. The information from Dr. Renshaw was broadly consistent with our charity-specific information, and we did not make major updates as a result.
The effectiveness of insecticide-treated nets at preventing child mortality due to malaria, as measured in randomized controlled trials. AMF We reviewed an update to the Cochrane Review of the effectiveness of nets in reducing child mortality and corresponded with the authors of the review about our interpretation of the results. Our cost-effectiveness analysis for AMF relies on an earlier Cochrane Review. We concluded that the update to the review makes a small difference (<10%) to the modeled cost-effectiveness of AMF, but have not yet incorporated this into our model. We plan to do so shortly.
The long-term effects of treatment for parasitic worms (deworming). Evidence Action's Deworm the World Initiative; END Fund's deworming program; Sightsavers' deworming program; SCI Foundation (SCI) We spoke with Professor Ted Miguel about a 20-year follow-up study (the fourth round of the Kenya Life Panel Study) and reviewed preliminary results from the study. In 2017, we recommended support to enable Professor Miguel to collect consumption data as part of the study, which we planned to use to inform our recommendation of deworming. We decreased our estimate of deworming's impact on long-term incomes. Additional details are in our cost-effectiveness model changelog.
Whether children infected with relatively small numbers of parasitic worms are at risk for delayed development or morbidity. Evidence Action's Deworm the World Initiative; END Fund's deworming program; Sightsavers' deworming program; SCI We spoke with Dr. Antonio Montresor of the World Health Organization, Dr. Nathan Lo of Stanford University School of Medicine, Dr. Hugo Turner of the Oxford University Clinical Research Unit, and Dr. Martin Walker of Imperial College London. We are in the process of developing a different way of modeling worm burden in current top charity contexts compared with the context in which randomized controlled trial evidence for deworming was collected. We have not yet updated our cost-effectiveness estimates.